Adaptive Radiation Constrained By Niche Availability

Understanding why there are so many species is an essential question in biology that continues to generate considerable curiosity and drive evolutionary research. Moreover, people seek to understand how species that are closely related can reside in very different niches and co-occur in areas. Darwin observed such an adaptive radiation with finches in the Galapagos, where the species of birds differ in the size and shape of their beaks, allowing … Continue reading

Trade-offs are important for promoting diversity, even for microbes

Background In 2005, Science Magazine published a special issue exploring 125 big unanswered questions in science in celebration of their 125th anniversary. One of the questions that I keep thinking about (as many biologists do, I’m sure), is this question of, “what determines species diversity?“. I know: This is an overwhelmingly big and important question in biology. So I decided to focus on just one hypothesis addressing this question. That … Continue reading

Can Invaders Become Darwinian Demons?

There are two things I think are really cool and drive most of what I think about (well, I’ll pretend there are only two). The first is trade-offs. They’re pervasive in ecological and evolutionary thinking. The basic idea is that everybody is good at doing something, but also bad at doing something else. This comes into play in ecology because each species has its own little niche in the world, … Continue reading

Race to the Top: Shifting Ranges and Species Interactions

As temperatures increase with climate change, species are expected to expand their ranges to higher latitudes, where it will be warm enough for them to survive. Similarly, many species are predicted to move up in elevation as higher altitudes experience warmer temperatures—we know that some have already started to do so. But we also know that some species can shift their ranges in response to temperature change more quickly than … Continue reading

Do invasive species shift their niche to invade?

Invasive species are able to take over and vastly change the ecosystems where they invade. On par with climate change and habitat destruction, they are one of the top threats to biodiversity. A recent example in the news, Asian carp, threatens to invade the Great Lakes and decimate fish populations – this species alone could cause a $7 billion fishing industry to collapse, so we can see why it is … Continue reading

How precise is a fig tree’s sanction ability?

Background Mutualism is a relationship between two organisms or species in which both benefit from the association. Flowering plants and pollinator interactions are a classic example of mutualism. Mutualisms are ubiquitous in nature and biologists have been fascinated by them for a long time.  For example, how does mutualism evolve? What maintains mutualism? Theory predicts that mutualism is susceptible to breakdown (May 1981) and vulnerable to anthropogenic environmental change (Six … Continue reading

Sex is for the Greater Good

Allegedly, men think about sex once every seven seconds. While this may seem like an exaggeration, regardless of gender, it’s likely an underestimate if you’re a life history biologist. I grew up as a graduate student in a life history lab, and trust me, there’s no end to the number of sex jokes that can be made when you’re talking about reproductive strategies that involve sneaker males or massive orgies … Continue reading

Novelty Can’t Last Forever

Novelty Can’t Last Forever–Rapid Evolution in the Face of Invasion The introduction of a novel organism into a community has many consequences, including generating novel evolutionary relationships between species. Considering the ubiquity of invasive species in ecosystems around the world, examining the evolutionary relationships between native and invasive species and how they can affect ecological patterns is of great interest. Richard Lankau recently published a paper in PNAS titled “Coevolution between … Continue reading